Is There an Ideal Recovery Time?

Is There an Ideal Recovery Time?

RESEARCH REVIEW: "Time Course of Recovery is Similar for the Back Squat, Bench Press, and Dead- lift in Well-Trained Males. Belcher, D. J., Sousa, C. A., Carzoli, J. P., Johnson, T. K., Helms, E., Visavadiya, N. P., & Zourdos, M. C. (2019). Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism."



In this month’s research review, we take a deeper look into a scientific study to discover how the body recovers after workouts that include squats, bench presses, and deadlifts. These three exercises are strength-based workouts that people engage in to increase maximal levels of muscle recruitment as they challenge the whole body through multi-joint coordination. Typically, if someone was looking to increase their baseline level of strength, they would not train a single joint movement in isolation but would rather challenge the body to move through a full-body movement. Since many people engage in these movement patterns throughout the week, we wanted to take a look at how long it takes for our bodies to recover from such stimuli. 

Study Design:

The goal of the current study was to expose 12 males (4 years of training experience) to either the bench press, back squat, or deadlift on a single day with no mixing of the three exercises on the same day. The prescription of sets and reps and weights were constant, as 80% of their 1 rep-max was put on the bar, 4 sets that were all done to failure, with 5 minutes of rest in between sets. At  5 minutes, 24, 48 and 72 hours post workout, 70% of the participants 1 rep-max was put on the bar, and the individual was asked to move the bar through the same trained movement pattern but this time trying to move the bar as fast as they could. Once they completed one of the movement patterns for their workout, they would wait a week before they would train the remaining two movement patterns.

Velocity of the bar was one of the ways we decided if recovery of the CNS and PNS was recovered. The other way the testers decided if full recovery had been reached was by examining the amount of muscle swelling, biochemical markers, and joint range of motion present in the individuals joints and blood. A goniometer was used to check for the change in joint range of motion post workout (5 min. , 24 hrs. , 48 hrs. , 72 hours post workout). We checked for Creatine Kinase and lactate Dehydrogenase levels, which are usually biochemicals that are present in the blood after muscle damage and intensive workouts. As far as swelling, a tape measure was used to monitor the changes in the amount of swelling the individuals had in their chest, shoulder, thighs and hamstrings.


The conclusion that was reached for the change in bar speed to assess strength recovery was complex. For the bench press, 5 minutes post workout had displayed that bar speed had significantly decreased but returned back to baseline levels after 24 hours of the stimulating workout. In terms of the amount of muscle swelling, the bench displayed significant muscle swelling post-workout as well as a decrease in range of motion of the shoulder, arm and chest regions. The last recording was the amount of Creatine and Lactate Dehydrogenase present in the blood.  Increases in these biomarkers displayed that there was a significant amount of muscle damage and work done during the bench workout.

The conclusion that was reached for the change in bar speed to assess strength recovery was different compared to the bench press. The deadlift did not display any type of significant decrease in bar speed at any of the post workout testings’ (5 min., 24, 48, 72 hr.), which was the opposite, compared to the changes in bench press, Range of motion was not significantly decreased as a result of the deadlift workout but there was definitely muscle swelling observed 5 minutes post workout. As far as biochemical markers, Creatine Kinase displayed elevated levels post workout but did not display elevated levels of Lactate Dehydrogenase.

The conclusion that was reached for the change in bar speed to assess strength recovery for the back squat was that fatigue and muscle damage was significantly experienced and recorded. Bar speed was reduced in the back squat all the way to 72 hours post workout, which was the biggest decline between all three movements. Range of motion for the hips and lower body was significantly decreased after the back squat workout as well as significant levels of swelling.  As far as biochemical markers, both biomarkers had increased past their baseline levels after the back squat workout.

Our Two Cents:

Fatigue is a very complex mechanism in the human body. There are so many factors that play into someone feeling rested and at their full-potential or slumped and down-regulated. Ultimately, we have two forms of fatigue that are present in our body: Central Nervous System (CNS) fatigue and Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) fatigue. CNS fatigue constitutes delay of the brain and spinal cord communication with the rest of your body. Your brain has the ultimate control of how you move and when you move, so when the back and forth communication becomes delayed, this has huge implications in terms of efficiency of movement. Peripheral fatigue deals with the factors that are more in line with our muscles and joints deteriorating after exercise bouts. During workouts, it is normal for us to have some muscle tissue breakdown to allow for stronger muscle to adapt but too much breakdown and not enough recovery time  in between bouts can lead to a downward spiral of adaptations.

It is important to consider that when programming these full body movement patterns into your workout routine, you not only allow a sufficient amount of stimulating reps but also ensure that you are allowing your body to recover in between bouts. This study can serve as a helping hand in understanding when we should program our bench, squat and deadlift workouts and how one of them can potentially interfere with the performance of another.

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